The impact of sport and physical activity on the well-being of combat veterans: A systematic review

Nick Caddick, Brett Smith

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

76 Citations (Scopus)


This review examined the potential impact of sport and physical activity upon the subjective and psychological well-being of combat veterans in the aftermath of physical or psychological combat trauma.

A systematic review was conducted. The question guiding this review was ‘what is the impact of sport and physical activity on the well-being of combat veterans?’

Key databases were searched for articles relating to the use of sport and/or physical activity in supporting combat veterans. 11 studies were identified as relevant for inclusion. Data from these studies were extracted by means of a directed content analysis, the results of which were reported in a narrative synthesis.

Sport and physical activity enhances subjective well-being in veterans through active coping and doing things again, PTSD symptom reduction, positive affective experience, activity in nature/ecotherapy, and quality of life. Impact on psychological well-being includes determination and inner strength, focus on ability and broadening of horizons, identity and self-concept, activity in nature/ecotherapy, sense of achievement/accomplishment, and social well-being. Participating in sport and/or physical activity can also enhance motivation for living.

The review advances knowledge by producing a synthesis of evidence that highlights the value of sport and physical activity for supporting the well-being and rehabilitation of disabled combat veterans and combat veterans diagnosed with Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder. It also develops knowledge by identifying the type of sports and physical activities used to promote well-being, offering the first definition of combat veterans in the sport literature, taking a critical approach, and highlighting the under researched role of nature-based physical activity.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)9-18
Number of pages10
JournalPsychology of Sport and Exercise
Issue number1
Early online date10 Oct 2013
Publication statusPublished - Jan 2014


  • Sport
  • Physical activity
  • Combat veterans
  • Well-being
  • Rehabilitation
  • PTSD


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